Dahlgren plans, and a new face in the tank farm!

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Hello everyone! After a sneak-preview of my existence in the most recent blog, I’m writing this post to introduce myself as the newest addition to the USS Monitor team. My name is Erik Farrell, and I joined as an Archaeological Conservator at the beginning of July. I previously worked as an archaeological conservator for the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, conserving materials from the wreck of Queen Anne’s Revenge with a focus on artillery and other ordnance. Before that I interned at Bevaringscenter Fyn in Denmark, working on a variety of objects including archaeological arms and armor components. I have a great love and affection for historic weapons (and historic artillery in particular), so I’ll give you two guesses what I’m most looking forward to… Dahlgrens!

A lot of work has gone into the conservation of Monitor‘s two XI-inch Dahlgren guns and their carriages already over the years. These are big, complex objects though, and there is still a great deal of work to be done. Marine archaeological guns always have one big problem in particular – how do you clean the inside?

A view down the bore: although the front section is largely clean, patches of concretion several inches thick remain on most of the interior surface, beyond the reach of hand tools.

Most objects we can clean with established methods like dry ice blasting or by using hand-held mechanical tools, but we need access to a surface to do that. With the Dahlgrens, there is simply no way for a person to access the inside of the bore with hand tools, especially all the way at the back.  My first big project is to design a new coring drill adapter and mount to allow us to remove all of the concretion inside the bore, without damaging the inside of the gun itself. Fortunately the guns are not loaded; explosives would have made things… let’s go with ‘complicated’.

As the planning phase begins for the next stage of Dahlgren conservation, I’ll be popping up here and there working on other objects. As Laurie mentioned, team Monitor has been working on dry ice blasting some of the larger objects out in the tank farm recently, and I got my introduction to dry ice blasting on some hull plating. It was a lot of fun, and very satisfying to get some objects a little bit closer to being clean. I’m looking forward to a lot more; stay tuned!

Conservator Erik dry ice blasting a section of the rifle shield

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